The Threat Of Discontinued Software

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2024-04-03 02:00:04

I've used computers for over 50 years so I've seen my share of computer programs, and computers, come and go. But it's always disconcerting when long used programs go away. Of course data stored in proprietary formats is the riskiest problem. But the effect on one's workflow is also an issue. I think that now that I am retired, and older, it's becoming particularly irritating. So here are some issues I've had and am having, personally.

I've gone from IBM 360 (and punched cards) to DEC PDP-11 to TRS-80 to CP/M to MSDOS and Windows with a stint using OS/2 and now for the past 15 years the Apple Mac. Each of those changes has generally meant a complete change of application software and, more often than not, new file formats. I'm concerned about changing again. Now that Apple is going to ARM processors, that is another change which would be difficult because of my reliance on discontinued/abandoned software that only runs on Intel Macs. And, of course, this software could still fail with future OS versions. The successors to macOS Mojave, in 2019, no longer support 32-bit applications, and this is a problem.

I started writing programs in Java in the late 1990s. I used IBM's Visual Age for Java, which was the most advanced IDE at the time and in many respects the most advanced IDE ever. I can still run it on a Windows 2000 virtual machine, but it is locked in to an old Java version. IBM abandoned the product (which was actually written in Smalltalk) for Eclipse, which I've never liked. I was making major use of Java Beans which was well supported in Visual Age, but also supported in Borland JBuilder, so I switched to Borland. But then Borland also switched to Eclipse. So now I use NetBeans, which contrary to the name has minimal Java Bean support. Now the cost of the software went from about $100/year to free, but the quality and power is much reduced, so I'm not a happy camper. Luckily Netbeans is cross platform (I've used it under Windows, macOS, and Linux) and still being developed and supported so I don't feel that I will be orphaned again. However ownership has moved from Oracle to Apache which did delay their release schedule.

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